Showing posts with label secularism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label secularism. Show all posts

Monday, 19 October 2015

Can We Just Try For a Fair Secular Solution?

Today's election day. Once again, much like the Quebec election, I find myself stuck in the middle of two positions. Both sides likely do not understand me. Both sides likely find me annoying.

It has to do with women swearing an oath of citizenship wearing niqabs. That should be the limits of the debate here in Canada, but of course people have taken things and they've run with it. The issue itself has been distorted all to hell.

Here's the deal. I'm actually fine with women (or men) wearing niqabs, Pastafarian spaghetti strainers, Wiccan ritual outfits, giraffe suits, Storm Trooper costumes or even garbage bags to citizenship ceremonies. I have no ill will towards women wearing niqabs, burkas, hijabs or chadors. I think this point of view is shared by many Canadians.

People who get offended by the above point of view because Jedi and Pastafarianism are not a real religions while they've got a legit one can eat it. That's part of this tolerance I keep hearing about. It works both ways.

In return for allowing all people to wear face concealing head coverings, Muslim women and ultra orthodox Jewish women (coverings for these do exist) will be able to wear their garbs in citizenship ceremonies. As Canadians, we can all get together and figure out what's required to facilitate this new right for all Canadians regardless of religion or lack thereof. Maybe it will involve a special room to the side where a government employee will validate the person's identity. Perhaps it will involve a special notary public. Perhaps retina scanning technology will be used. There are many many options.

This would not be religious accommodation, this would be head garb accommodation.

I'll also stop people right here who say that this will cause too much extra spending and would propose that the government stop funding religious magazines to pay the few extra salaries required. Honestly, we have the money to settle this debate in a permanent and truly secular fashion.

This is my dream: Secular government sees that a significant proportion of their citizenship wants to wear stuff on their heads to citizenship ceremonies. Government says that if one group wants this right then all groups get it. It's like when little Billy brought his chocolate bar into class - all the kids get some. It's only fair, children.

There is also a dark side to this debate though. On the one hand, you have people who are truly xenophobic and bigoted who are against Muslims. On the other, you have ex-Muslims and other progressives who point out, rightly, that in many countries - including Muslim communities within Canada - girls and women are forced to wear these coverings and that is oppressive. On a third hand, you have progressives who seem completely blind to this oppression.

I say, let's take the wind out of the issue by allowing everyone to wear what they like and then concentrate on different ways to combat religiously motivated oppression. Mandatory multi-religion courses and broad social studies in schools is one way, for instance. This includes realistic sex education - which address perfectly healthy realities like homosexuality and trans folk - like what all the hullabaloo is about in Ontario.

Listen, I'd love to see Harper go. I'll take the NDP as first and the Liberals as second. Issues like the TPP, assisted dying, abortion rights, healthcare, not making 15B dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia, unmuzzling scientists, decriminalisation of cannabis, and secularism are important to me and I hope we see a little more of this.

Sadly, I'm not holding my breath for a fair and reasonable solution to this problem from any of these parties.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

UK Professor Suggests No Microwaving Bacon in Communal Workplace Kitchens

At my office, there are unwritten rules about what can go into the microwaves in our shared kitchen. No microwave popcorn, a minimal amount of bacon and absolutely no smelly fish. These aren't codified anywhere, they're just there so people do not get unnecessarily distracted by the smell.

Well, Professor Adam Dinham of Goldsmith’s University in London runs the Religious Literacy Leadership program and involved with CoExist House. He released some helpful guidelines about how business communal kitchens ought to work so as to not offend religious sensibilities.
Professor Adam Dinham suggests not microwaving sausage rolls in a shared kitchen space. He also advises that you should not keep bacon, or bacon rolls, in the fridge if it is shared with people whose beliefs prohibit them from eating pork.

The guidelines go on to suggest that employers should serve certified Halal and kosher food at corporate events, and consider whether or not alcohol should be served.
It's cuz we've all become really blind by secularism.
Professor Dinham said: ‘We have lost the ability to talk about religious belief because of a century of secular assumptions, and most religious belief is either highly visible and we don’t recognise it, or it’s invisible and we miss it entirely.’
It's interesting that pork is being singled out, isn't it? I'm wondering why there are no suggestions to not allow warming up your beef cottage pie in the microwave so as to not disturb Hindus. Is Dinham suggesting they become less agitated than Jews or Muslims?

What about the Jain in your office? I would expect no meat all all to be allowed so as to not offend them.

This would make the environment tolerable for vegetarians, for sure. What about vegans though? Ought we also suggest there by no dairy products or eggs at the office? Well, I suppose veganism is not a religion and is therefore not at the same level of importance to Mr. Dinham.

Nevermind that there is considerable controversy around Halal and Kosher slaughtering techniques even among meat eaters. What about their sensibilities? Not religious, I guess.

What about gluten in the office? Celiac disease is not a religious sensibility, this is an actual physical reaction to consumption of gluten, found in many foods. Shouldn't this be right up there on top if we're going to be discussing etiquette?

So what about a pork, beef, meat, eggs, dairy, bread, dairy free kitchen?

Understandably, there was a negative reaction to this on the Internet yesterday. People thought it amounted to a ban - which it wasn't. However, I found this VICE Munchies article by Alex Swerdloff that seems to have utterly missed how the original guidelines are troublesome - a point I made above but would have thought to be obvious to anyone.
It was just a few suggestions: Don’t keep bacon in the office fridge if your colleagues don’t eat bacon. Microwaving a sausage roll might be offensive to your Muslim coworker. That kind of thing.
I think he meant to say this one and only thing apparently for these two specific groups.

Commenter hayleyscomet sums things up over at the Independent.
If you are going to go down that route, the only way to avoid offending anyone is to have offices segregated by religion and dietary preference.  
We've seen this sort of thing before on a much larger scale in India - a so-called secular state. Although guidelines are not laws or bans, the line between them in an office environment can be thin.

How about this for a novel approach at inter-faith (or no faith) co-existence at the office? I'll let you cook and eat what you like so long as you do not attempt to control my own diet by appealing to your wounded religious sensibilities?

(Image source)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Catholic 'Secular' Group Calls For Ban of 'Agnes of God' Play In Mumbai

India is apparently the world's largest secular democracy - so I've heard. So putting on a play with religious themes shouldn't be a problem at all!

Presumably working under this assumption, Mahabanoo Kotwal, owner of Poor Box Production, thought he'd produce a by now classic play, Agnes of God, in Mumbai - which is a pretty big metropolitan city within the world's largest secular democracy. He booked the venue, people bought tickets, things were tickety boo.
The play is an adaptation of an original play by John Pielmeier, in which the protagonist nun, Sister Agnes, gives birth to a child and claims she is a virgin. The delivery leads to a series of investigations in which psychiatrist Maratha Livingston discovers, contrary to the nun’s claims, that the latter slept with a man. The case is dragged to the court where the psychiatrist reasons that Agnes is not of sound mind. The play, a pun derived from Latin Agnus Dei (lamb of God), has also been adapted into a movie in 1985.
Then the owner of the theatre informed him that the play needed to be canceled. It turns out that a Catholic group thinks India just isn't ready for such a play. (The movie version came out in 1985, and starred Jane Fonda so it is a little modern perhaps for India.)
“We need to protest not because Catholic nuns or the Christian clergy is targeted, rather because the secular fabric of India is being threatened. India is not yet culturally or socially ready for such freedoms that West or Americas have,” said Joseph Diaz, general secretary of CSF, adding that the play “will open a pandora’s box” and cause mistrust in the religion.
It's become very clear to me that secularism must mean something completely different in India than it does in the West or Americas. It would seem that Indians are not yet culturally ready to watch material which could challenge their childhood religious indoctrination. Maybe in another 3,000 years, right?

If this isn't weird enough, let me divulge to you what the acronym CSF is. The group which is trying to ban the play is called the Catholic Secular Forum! Now don't get me wrong, Catholics can be secular, but the fact a Catholic secular group is attempting to ban a play because it hurts their religious feelings is making my head spin.
“We respect freedom of speech. But from my preliminary reading of the plot, it could give ruse to scandal or speculation. We would urge them (producer) to not release the play.” said Father Nigel, spokesperson of Bombay Archdiocese, adding the play has “no spiritual learning for the community”. 
... but, if we find it offensive, then it needs to be banner post haste.

So this Catholic secular group went to the police chief and demanded the play not be allowed to go forward at the original venue or any other venue in town. It looks like that worked. Secular nation? I guess it all depends on what you mean by secular. In India it seems to mean that religious sensibilities trump all else.

(Image source)

Friday, 2 October 2015

Discussion: "Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article"

Niqabs, hijabs, chadors, and burkas seem to be in the news again as the election heats up. To be honest, I've tended to avoid this issue. I wish we would just start taxing churches, temples and mosques indiscriminately like any other building.

This said, I'm okay with face revealing chadors and hijabs when government ID is required, but niqabs and burkas would require that either the State hire special female face checkers or else some form of reasonable accommodation by the women themselves to the State by revealing their faces.

And naturally, any judgement here would need to also apply to Pastafarians! They wear headgear more revealing than all four of the above and is worn for religious reasons and yet it is not allowed! Why?

I will soon have Eiynah Nicemangos onto the podcast who has some strong feelings regarding this issue.

Another person with opinions on this is fellow Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass. She has published an interesting article over at the Atheist Freethinkers blog.

Abbass sent me some background on the blog. Atheist Freethinkers/Libres penseurs athées (AFT/LPA) is a fully bilingual (French & English) organization based in Montreal, Quebec committed to “reason, knowledge and the material, intellectual and moral advancement of humanity.” AFT/LPA’s raisons d'être are to “promote secularism and reject any religious involvement in civil institutions.”

From Abbass’ latest article, “Not Just Another Niqab and Burka Article,”:
Raheel Raza’s Toronto Sun article “Ban niqab, burka in all public places” and reprinted in Huffington Post Canada as “As a Muslim, I Think Canada Should Ban the Niqab and Burka in Public” is extremely annoying.
Go give it a read to find out why Abbass finds Raheel Raza’s article “annoying.” Then let the discussion begin.

Read and sign the Atheist Manifesto and join AFT/LPA.

Be counted: Sign Atheist Census Canada and the Atheist Alliance International Atheist Census.

(Image source)

Monday, 31 August 2015

Jerusalem Ultra-Orthodox Groups: No 'Sabbath-Desecrating' Bikes Allowed!

Tel-O-Fun bikes in Tel Aviv.
Uh oh, they're at it again - behaving like the own the place or something.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Tamir Nir is working to get his city a bike sharing program like BIXI here in Montreal or Tel-O-Fun (best name ever) in Tel Aviv. The program is due to begin in less than a year and you'd think everyone would be okay with it, right? Nope.
On Monday, Army Radio reported that the ultra-Orthodox factions on Jerusalem’s city council have already expressed opposition to the plan. “There is not a shadow of doubt that we view this with the utmost seriousness,” the chairman of the United Torah Judaism faction, Eliezer Rauchberger, told the radio station. “We will do everything we can to prevent this. I know that there are similar initiatives in Tel Aviv and other places, but Jerusalem is not Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is a holy city. That’s how it needs to be run.
Listen, Jerusalem is a nice little theocratic enclave in (so-called) secular Israel - that's the way we run it! - and so no bikes! My God, Jews in Orthodox neighborhoods may just be able to ride bikes to go catch Saturday matinee at the new 16 screen YES Planet cinema complex! Non-Haredi Jews and seculars just need to make sacrifices to help this tragedy not happen.
Although rental spots are also planned for ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, those stations will not operate on Shabbat or Jewish holidays.
Yes, that's right. Much like the cinema situation recently, nobody's even trying to put this stuff within ultra-Orthodox neighbourhoods. These groups wish to prevent any bikes in any part of Jerusalem, because it's holy.

(Image source)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Drink Lots of Coffee: I Must Pay Attention to Boring Canadian Politics

Over the decades there have been politicians who were compelling, thrilling, charismatic, inspiring, motivating, electrifying.  With their passion to make the world a better place, they could draw people in and with their words alone they sometimes mobilized mighty social movements for change.

Then you have modern day Canadian (career) politicians. They are none of these things. Unless you're talking about the recent spate of evolution deniers, I get about as excited about the current Canadian political environment as I might for watered down cabbage soup and stinky-sock flavoured tea for Sunday lunch over at the Legion Hall.

Stephen Harper, for instance is about as interesting as wood rot - which is why he's so goddamn dangerous. He paralyzes me with his lackluster personality just before eating out my brain, raping the environment, muzzling the scientists and destroying the world.

Still, it would be interesting to know where my local politicians really stand on anything at all secular issues. Veronica Abbass over at Canadian Atheist has collected some great questions for the people running in your riding. Even if they don't answer any of them, I recommend you send them their way anyway - just to let them know they're being watched by constituents who care.

I'll send these off to my politicians via e-mail and/or snail mail to see what happens. I'll update you guys if I get any response.

Meanwhile, here are some of these which resonate with me.
Do you support repealing Section 296 of the Criminal Code which makes “blasphemy” a crime?

Do you support repealing paragraph 319(3)(b) of the Hate Propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code because it exempts religious discourse from prosecution, thus granting a dangerous privilege to religions, permitting them to make hateful statements with impunity?

Do you support closing Canada’s Office of Religious Freedom?

Do you think that theology faculties should be banned in all public universities and that no taxpayer funding should be provided to support any sectarian religious instruction?

Do you accept the theory of evolution by natural selection as fact using the scientific definition of theory?
I would add questions like this:
Do you believe that churches and other religious organizations should pay their fair share of property taxes?

Do you believe that pastors and clergy should pay normal taxes on their lodging like other Canadians?
Go check out the complete list and, please, for the sake of my child, overcome your paralyzing boredom and cynicism and get involved. If you try, I will try too.

(Image source)

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Haredi Groups Consider Protesting New Cinema Being Open Saturdays

So, whatcha doing Saturday? Want to watch a movie or something?


Next thing you'll be asking for is a cup of coffee on Saturday! Can't have that! Keep walking, because we don't wanna hear you whine about your caffeine headache.

Or maybe you'll want to pick up a nice outfit to wear on a premarital sitting-next-to-each-other-in-a-dark-room date with a human at the movie that's NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN? Well, forget that too! No fashionable retail outlet clothing for you on Saturday. That is, if we can help it.

It's nothing personal. It's just that God told us 3,000 years ago that we can't go to the movies on Saturday. Therefore, you cannot go to the movies on Saturday. See, it makes sense, right?

Stores in Jerusalem are apparently expected to be closed on the Shabbat, while places of leisure like movie theatres have historically been allowed to remain open. This however, hasn't stopped some haredi groups from considering protests anyway.
The Rabbinical Committee, however, includes among its ranks Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld who represents the radical Eda Haredit communal organization, which has in the past protested vehemently and violently against what the group describes as “mass desecration of the Shabbat” in Jerusalem, including the bitter fight over the Karta parking lot just outside the Old City.
Yes, people other than them watching a movie is mass destruction - total obliteration.

If the various groups do plan to protest on a Saturday, they will likely not do it at the cinema itself - because it's too far away from major haredi populations. As I mentioned in the last story about a protest, these groups do not drive on the Shabbat.
The rabbi told The Jerusalem Post that preparations are already underway to conduct such protests and said that he expected a demonstration this coming Shabbat. Rosenfeld noted, however, that any demonstrations would likely not take place outside Yes Planet itself, since it is a considerable distance from the haredi neighborhoods where Eda Haredit’s followers reside.
So, they don't even live in the community with this theatre. They're protesting the opening of a cinema in a completely different neighbourhood. It's so heartwarming to see their concern for their fellow man - victim to having the option to watch a movie on a Saturday night. Such charity is rare in this day.
Asked whether or not the holiness of Jerusalem extended to the new parts of the city without haredi or religious communities, Rosenfeld argued that Jerusalem was the “place of the sanctuary,” a reference to the two ancient Jewish temples that stood on the Temple Mount, and said that this holiness was projected and conferred upon the rest of the city.
It's like they think they own the place or something. It turns out, though, that what we have here is an out of control holiness leak that's just spreading all over Jerusalem and surrounding area completely unchecked. As soon as the holiness comes into contact with cafes or movie theatres, they must be shut on Saturdays.

Instead of just not watching the movies - most of which are utter crap, I assure you - some are considering to protest not on the Shabbat, so they can get to the actual theatre.

When challenged with the fact that theatres have been allowed to be open on the Shabbat for ages, Rabbi Yosef Rosenfeld let us know that it's all about capacity. It's the sixteen screens - it's just too many screens, okay?
Rosenfeld acknowledged that cinemas have been open on the Shabbat in Jerusalem for many years, but said that the size and scale of the 16-screen Yes Planet complex was a change to the status quo that he did not consider acceptable.
Well at least his reasoning isn't just some completely arbitrary judgement call.

It's unexpected that the protests will get them anywhere.  Perhaps it will be further entertainment to movie goers.

(Image source)

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Egyptian Government Training Squads to Refute Atheists & 'Correct Religious Awareness'

It's been awhile since we've heard from our friends at the Egyptian Religious Endowments Ministry. I was beginning to wonder if they were okay. Back in April, they were going to train a crack squad of roving religious apologists to deal with a recent onset of atheism and religious mehs - particularly with the young Twitter users among them.
“The groups will include one Quran reciter, one chanter and two speakers,” ministry spokesman Mohamed Abdel Razek told Daily News Egypt. “The gatherings aim at spreading awareness on the threats of atheism, Shi’a, Baha’ism expiation, killings, and drug addiction.”
You know, sort of like travelling minstrels of yore.

Well, we have a much awaited update now from Grand Mufti Ibrahim Negm from Dar al-Iftaa, which is the premiere moral authority in Egypt - they seem to tell the government what's right and what's wrong.
A wave of atheism is becoming stronger in the entire world, and has become more aggressive because of communication technology; while it exists in Egypt, it is not as aggressive, advisor to Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ibrahim Negm told Ten TV channel Tuesday.
Maybe atheists are shy because the police keep doing things like raiding and shutting their cafes?

You can read about the situation in previous posts on the blog. This wave of atheism has been treated by government and media over there sort of like a plague would be here.
Dar al-IFtaa, Egypt’s authority tasked with releasing religious opinions, will hold seminars to study and refute atheists’ arguments so as to spread “correct religious awareness,” according to Negm.

A “traditional religious scholar” cannot face negative phenomena that have spread lately in the Islamic world, such as extremist ideology, atheism, and “intellectual and sexual perversion,” he said.
Gotta up your game! Until then, though, why not arrest them all, right?
(Image source)

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Jerusalem Cafe Forced to Close on Shabbat

I had a friend in university who painted a gruesome picture of apocalyptic terror for me once. She proposed a world where a power elite seized control of all the coffee on the planet and began withholding it to obtain and maintain power. I shudder even thinking of it now.

Well, in secular Israel, the Ultra-Orthodox community believe they have the power and duty to withhold things like shopping centres and now precious coffee from everyone on the shabbat.
The Jerusalem municipality has been trying to open a café in Independence Park for several years, and it recently awarded the franchise to the Landwer café chain. The owners initially said the café would open on Shabbat, a move that secular activists cheered as bolstering secular culture in the city.

But sources familiar with the chain of events said the owners recently changed their minds and decided to make the café kosher and close it on Shabbat. These sources added that the owners made this decision after Badatz – the kashrut organization run by the ultra-Orthodox Eda Haredit – threatened to remove its kashrut certification from Landwer Coffee.
That's right. Nobody is allowed coffee on Saturday from this cafe. Naturally, there's nothing preventing Ultra Orthodox Jews from just not buying the coffee on Saturday, but that's not good enough. God gets pissed when people buy coffee on the day of rest.
“For the sanctity of Shabbat, regarding the rumor of a plan to open Landwer cafés in massive violation of Shabbat, heaven help us,” it said. “We are making a last-minute appeal to anyone who can prevent this destructive breach of Shabbat in the holy city of Jerusalem. If this plan, heaven forbid, is implemented, we will be forced to end our [kashrut] supervision of the Landwer Coffee company.”
There are many serious problems facing our planet today - this group has decided to tackle the profound and far reaching issue of people buying their java on a Saturday morning in this particular park. Some politicians think it's a violation of secular principles and amounts to extortion - but are they not thinking of all those people BUYING COFFEE on Saturday?
But a municipal official reacted angrily to the news. “This isn’t ordinary ultra-Orthodox coercion, it’s extortion,” he charged.
Apparently, another cafe in First Station was able to successfully fight off calls to close on Saturday - but not without a violent confrontation.
Many businesses in First Station are open on Shabbat, but ultra-Orthodox groups mounted almost no public opposition to the compound’s opening. That was due largely to their having suffered a series of costly failures in previous battles to keep businesses from opening on Shabbat, most notably in the violent struggle to close the Karta Parking Lot near the Old City.
Apparently, though, there is less concern about the First Station cafe because it's pretty far away from large Ultra-Orthodox populations in the city, while this park is apparently ground zero. Furthermore, the First Station cafe wasn't really within walking distance of any large orthodox community - and the protesters do not drive on the Shabbat.

I wonder if the cafe can just find a way to automate the whole coffee making process on Saturday using timed coffee makers and maybe even pre-paid debit cards?

It sure is plenty complicated to get a cup of java in Independence Park.

(Image source)

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Judge Rules In Favour of Catholic Church, Canon Law, (Maybe) Katy Perry

More news from the Katy Perry front, comrades! Remember the legal battle she got into with those nuns in LA who trust a nightclub owner over their own diocese? The archbishop is trying to sell the convent to Perry so the pop star can live a quiet life with her mom on the property. The nuns are refusing to move because they think they can get a better deal with the nightclub owner, who's going to turn the convent into a boutique hotel - and that naughty Perry can just keep out.

Well, it's gone before a judge and there will be no boutique hotel in the convent - much to the chagrin of the nuns. Actually, the judge seemed hellbent to make nobody happy with his ruling.

Oddly, judge James C Chalfant ruled that the nightclub owning, hotel building buyer to whom the nuns wish to sell, Dana Hollister, must pay the nuns $25,000 a month!
Thursday’s mixed ruling by superior court judge James C Chalfant will tie up the once-lavish estate in months of litigation. While the judge preliminarily ruled that entrepreneur Dana Hollister’s purchase of the convent is invalid, he ordered her to pay $25,000 a month to support the nuns and denied representatives for Los Angeles’ Catholic archbishop or Perry access to the convent during the dispute.
I'm not a legal expert, so that ruling mystifies me. Why must she support the nuns? Is this judge just making shit up?
Archbishop Jose H Gomez wants to sell the convent to Perry, but the sale cannot go forward because Hollister has already registered a deed for the property. Chalfant said it will take months, if not years, to resolve the dispute between the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the archbishop.

“You’re not selling to Katy Perry anytime soon,” Chalfant told the archbishop’s lawyers.
Here's the part that strikes me as utterly insane. The judge has ruled that whether or not Perry gets the property should be determined by Church (Canon) Law!
Chalfant ruled that church law governs the sale of the convent, not civil law. He ordered Hollister to remove any armed guards from the property and set a hearing for 15 September on whether she will be able to retain possession of the convent.

Archdiocese lawyers want Hollister removed and said Thursday that Perry has agreed to pay rent on the convent while the case is litigated.

A lawyer for the sisters argued it was unfair to use canon law to decide the issue because civil laws should govern the sale.
What the hell is going on here? This judge must be making this up as he goes along.

Just in case the Guardian got it wrong, I checked another source:
The archdiocese and nuns both agree that the property, which was bestowed to the sisters by a Catholic who wanted them to keep him in their prayers, should be sold. But the two sides are fighting over the control of the sale’s proceeds and whether Perry or Ms Hollister are suitable buyers. The judge ruled that church law governed the sale of the convent, not civil law.  He ordered Ms Hollister to remove any armed guards from the property and he set a hearing for 15 September to decide whether she will be able to retain possession.
What? I wonder what would happen of a judge decided that Sharia Law be used to determine a case similar to this one?

(Image source)

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Airline Passenger (With Uterus) Refuses Last Minute Seat Switch to Satisfy Orthodox Jewish Man's "Deeply Held Religious Beliefs"

Christine Flynn, 31, uterus-equipped, groggily sat down on a New Jersey to Toronto morning flight. An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walked up to her row and she greeted him with a smile - I hear humans do that. He then proceeded to repeat the word "change" to the penis-bearing people around her. He ignored her, the uterus human.
"He came down the aisle, he didn't actually look at me … or make eye contact. He turned to the gentleman across the aisle and said, 'Change.'"
He himself didn't ask her to move seats. That would be against his deeply held religious beliefs. Instead, he managed to get a flight attendant - who also presumably has a penis - to ask Christine to scooch her woman bits away from him. And the flight attendant did just that.
"I said, 'This man is refusing to sit next to me because I am a woman.' At that point, another man behind ... offered to switch with me and the airline attendant said, 'Would you be willing to move? and I said, 'Absolutely not. This is ridiculous,'" she said. "I was without words."
I'm fairly certain that if someone were asked to move because they were gay or black, this would be a bigger deal. However, it seems like religious freedom trumps sex and gender. I guess women are at the bottom of the totem pole.

An airline representative stated that last minute seating change requests seldom happen for religious reasons, yet it seems as if the frequency is increasing.
According to an April 9 article in the New York Times, conflicts between ultra-Orthodox Jewish men and female passengers on flights are becoming more common, with several flights from New York to Israel being delayed or disrupted over the past year.
Listen to this amazing interview where Christine kicks ass.

In the above interview, she must deal with an interviewer who seems rather uninterested with the obscene level of entitlement going on. Here a passenger feels like he can force people to switch seats at the last moment just so he will not need to sit next to someone with the same reproductive system configuration as around half the planet's population.
"Leaving it to the last minute and expecting me to move is appalling. He's expecting me to fall in to that archetypical feminine role and acquiesce." 
Yet, in this interview at least, the blame seems to be implied rather squarely on Flynn - who is clearly not the one causing these ridiculous complications. Could you imagine the games a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews could make people play on a plane- all in the name of religious accommodation?

Jerry Coyne fills us in on just that.

Flynn would like an apology from the airline (reasonable). She would also like the airline to make a plan to deal with this in the future (reasonable).
"I'd like an apology," Flynn said. "There really should be a policy around this. If people are going to get on flights and demand that they sit next to someone of the same sex, there should be an area where they can go. I should not have to move because someone has a problem with my uterus."
There are, of course, several ways Porter can accommodate ultra-Orthodox Jews - should they feel motivated. Flynn suggested a box to fill in on the ticket. Here's a few:
  1. Like any special needs request, passengers who have problems sitting next to 50% of the population should make this known during the booking process. Either the airline ensures that such fliers are "paired up" appropriately on the flight - or else an extra seat may need to be purchased. There should be a surcharge on that passenger's ticket for the extra administrative work, so I don't need to pay for this nonsense.
  2. Passenger should check at the gate to ensure they still have their vagina-free-zone. If not, then perhaps the airline can offer another flight on standby.
  3. Groups of passengers who have problems mixing with other humans should consider chartering their own flights.
  4. Perhaps Porter could begin distributing plastic bags like this.

(Image source, source) (story via Canadian Atheist)

Friday, 24 July 2015

Declaring Christianity Liberia's National Religion Risks Destabilizing Entire Country

There's a fascinating piece over at Think Progress about the perilous situation Liberia finds itself in as some local Christian groups there are fighting to have the country declared a Christian Nation.
In April, lawmakers successfully proposed a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would reinstate Christianity as the official state religion. This attempt follows Christian leaders’ fruitless efforts in 2013 to submit a similar petition to lawmakers in the Liberian House and Senate.
Christian groups - and apparently the vast majority of Liberians - seem to want this to happen. However, minority religious groups in the country are calling for secularism and no state endorsement of any religion.
Now that it’s in President Sirleaf’s hands, the proposal could appear on a national referendum next year — a possibility that troubles Liberian followers of Islam who are concerned about the advent of state-sanctioned persecution and marginalization.

Earlier this year, protesters converged on the site of a constitutional conference to demand the constitution remain unchanged. “Liberia is not for Christians. Liberia is not for Muslims. Liberia is for everybody. We don’t want Liberia to be for only one group of people,” protest leader Hajah Swaray told the Anadolu news agency. “It would not be fair to see one group marginalized. We have 16 tribes in Liberia. Some people are Muslims, while others are Bahai or embrace traditional religions. Let’s just live as we are.”
The article goes on to point out that increased tribal and ethnic tension - presumably also religious conflict - has preceded both gruesome civil wars in the country.

It's a fascinating read and shows how secularism is something which ought to be sought after by not only atheists, but the religious as well.

(Image source)

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

New Fundraiser to Combat State-Enforced Bible Study In Guatemala

Gail Miller from Atheist Alliance International has alerted me of some pretty nefarious things afoot in overwhelmingly Christian Guatemala.

Congressman Marvin Rocael Osorio Vásquez got a memo from the creator of the entire Universe saying everybody in his country needs to be taught the Biblical values, whether they like it or not.

(Or - assuming he's not merely pandering to his religious political base - he's hearing voices inside his head and basing legislation which affects others upon aural hallucinations.)
Over the course of the last 9 months, a congressman claiming he received "explicit instructions from God" during a "divine revelation," has been planning and writing a bill proposal gathering support from local Evangelical and Pentecostal churches and organizations. The proposed bill was presented to Congress last Wednesday (July 15th) in a religious act inside Congress.
Here's the sort of thing this mandatory course would require:
  • ALL schools in Guatemala, both public and private, are forced to teach a weekly "Biblical Values" class. They must employ special teachers to teach them and certified "chaplains" to serve as "spiritual guides" to students.
  • ALL students regardless of their religious beliefs, or lack of them, are required to attend these classes and obtain a passing grade. Effectively violating the right to religious freedom and freedom of conscience.
  • Government must allocate resources to pay for all of this in its National Budget, thus violating the important principle of separation of Church and State. It means taxpayers end up paying for religious instructions that should be paid for by individual churches and interested parents, not everyone.
This is state-endorsed religion, effectively eliminating any pretense of secularism within the country. It bears a striking resemblance to borderline theocracies like Turkey or Egypt.
This eliminates every option for parents that want their children to get a strictly secular education. If this bill passes, ALL education in Guatemala will have a religious element, based on a "literal and grammatical" interpretation of a particular Protestant version of the Christian Bible.
The eagerness these Christian groups have to become state-sanctioned and ram their doctrine down children's throats is rather sickening.

There is a fundraiser to combat this evil law set up today by the Asociación Guatemalteca de Humanistas Seculares. The are trying to raise $8000 in the next month to support a legal and media defense in Guatemala for the sake of secularism and freedom of  and freedom from religion.

We aim to protect the rights of every parent to select and every child to receive a secular education, if that is what they want. This is what Secular States are all about: protecting the religious freedom of all individuals by not privileging any one religion over another. We already took our first step by presenting a formal complaint to our local Human Rights Commissioner. We are highly motivated to fight for these rights all the way to the end, but we need more monetary resources to cover everything we need to do so. 
This campaign is legit, you can read about it over at the National Secular Society as well.

Also, watch this video produced by the group. Make sure to turn on English subtitles, if you don't understand Spanish.

Five hundred has been raised in the first day. Let's keep the momentum going for the sake of secularism in Guatemala - for the sake of non-Christian religions and atheists and humanists in this predominantly Christian country which may sink into theocracy.

Help us keep education secular in Guatemala

(Image source)

Monday, 13 July 2015

Newfoundland Public School Will Not Display Bible Verse

The old school building. Photo © Adam Randell at The Northern Pen (source) and used with permission.
Edit 2015-07-28: Reader Shawn the Humanist (@ShawnHumanist) has pointed out that the link to the article has changed. I've updated it below, accordingly. Shawn has also found an actual interview with the man who put the verse onto the wall. Apparently, he is no fan of religion, but figured the verse should be up for historical reasons.
“Religion is as far from me as the east star is from the west,” he said. “It was on the previous school and I thought that it was appropriate to put it back on the new one.”

Saint Anthony is a small town near the northern tip of Newfoundland. Last week, there was some controversy there because the public school board is not so keen on plastering a Bible verse on the new school that's being constructed.
It has been established that the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District has no plans of transferring the bible verse – "All thy children shall be taught of the lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children." – to the new school; a verse that has been placed on town schools since the early 1900s.
Apparently the sign came originally from a school built by Sir Wilfred Grenfell in 1900 and later moved to St. Anthony's Elementary School in the 1970s. Some city councillors expected the verse to be moved to the newly constructed White Hills Academy, but the publicly funded school district wisely chose to not do it.

The Mayor still expressed some surprise that anyone would consider a Bible verse instructing us to teach children about god and donated to what was likely a Christian school by a Christian missionary like Grenfell as religious.
However, Mayor Ern Simms said that isn't the case, and council was told by the school district that any plaque at the new school would have to be non-religious.

"I didn't look at that as being religious, and a lot of people didn't and still don't," he said.

"I look at it as something that Grenfell always worked with — he worked with everyone. He worked with all people as a doctor and apparently he was partly missionary as well, and he worked with everybody in that area."
In a small town like Saint Anthony, I suppose this might not seem too apparent. It's nice that the school board is proactively taking steps to be secular without waiting for a complaint.
 “Since it was first placed, children from every religion in the world have gone to St. Anthony Elementary, and there has never, ever, been a complaint from anybody about it,” said Simms.
The city council will seek input from local residents before making a final decision. Up to now, the school has done good and I hope the city council will honour this decision in the name of state-church separation.

Some have suggested that the sign be donated to the local Grenfell Historical Society, which seems eminently reasonable.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

BiZoHa Orphanage - 'With Science We Can Progress!'

The Andrea Vogt Roadside Stand will allow the school to sell homegrown produce alongside a busy highway.
This is a guest post by Chris de Brabander documenting some of the absolutely astounding progress being made at the BiZoHa orphanage in Uganda!

The project to build and operate a secular orphanage in Uganda was launched at the end of February, and in just a little over four months time has made remarkable progress. 

Donations have steadily streamed in, and under the capable management of Project Director Bwambale Robert, already five buildings are completed including the hostel, classroom, kitchen, latrine, and a roadside stand for earning income from sale of snacks, drinks and crafts on the local road frequented by travelers. Construction has also started and is progressing very quickly on a health clinic at the site. 

The BiZoHa Clinic will serve the local communities as well as the orphanage and school. While it will not be able to handle all the medical needs of the area, it will be a great relief. Currently there is only one small government-run clinic serving the six local communities, and most essential drugs are not always available at that health unit. 

BiZoHa Clinic will have a trained medic with a small science lab for examining specimens and dispensing medications for common problems such as malaria and parasites. They will also provide health and hygiene education to the community.

Future plans for the site include adding a museum, which will feature exhibits about the culture of the Rwenzori People and way of living. It will serve as a tourist attraction and an educational tool for research students. Plans to erect more hostels to serve orphans plus students to enroll in the future school and some guest houses to shelter volunteers and guests will come in the course of time. These will offer alternate sources to sustainability.

Water has been piped in to BiZoHa from the mountains. In addition, Bwambale has plans to install rainwater harvesting tanks to supplement the piped water, especially as sometimes the pipes break or get washed away. Tank water can be used for washing clothes, bathing and in the latrine toilets.

BiZoHa plants crops in order to be self-sustaining, and irrigation is needed during the dry season for the crops to thrive. Also, Bwambale is exploring whether further water purification mechanisms might be put in place at point of use for drinking water, to replace boiling.

One solar panel has been installed, and a second has been funded and will be installed very soon. These solar panels and others (funding welcomed!) will make the site self-sustaining with electricity.

The intention is to enclose the hostels, classrooms, dining area, kitchen and toilets in one walled area for security reasons, with the clinic just outside the walls. 

The local community has been very welcoming. Local construction businesses have been busily engaged in getting the site ready quickly for the arriving orphans. A matron has been hired to look after the children in the hostel, and there will also be employment for a cook, teachers, medic, and perhaps other positions as BiZoHa becomes increasingly established. The site will welcome sixteen orphans in late August, and Bwambale has been visiting the local communities to identify children for this pioneer group. 

In addition BiZoHa’s school will accept students on a tuition basis from the nearby communities. Education will be secular humanist, based on science and using reason and free thought as the foundation for knowledge. Instruction will be in English to establish the footing for success in life for the children. The motto of the school will be “With Science, We Can Progress” which is painted on buildings along with the “Happy Humanist” logo. 

Opportunities to sponsor room, board and tuition for the resident orphans ($250 per year) and needy local students who live at home ($125 per year for tuition only, and/or $90 for meals at school) are available. Information on some orphans is already listed and ready to accept donations. Sponsors will receive communications about the child’s progress in school. 

In addition to scholarships, donations to the building and outfitting of the site are very much needed and each one is so very appreciated. These monies will go to such things as security, a microscope for the lab, medications and supplies, educational items for the school, furnishings, uniforms for the children, play equipment, partial sponsorships, food, etc.  To support this project financially, any coin counts and will be spent on what it’s meant for! 

Donations can be made easily at 

For inquiries on large donations to sponsor upcoming construction needs (building dedications), or any donation where a tax receipt is desired, please visit the Brighter Brains website and donate via that channel and use the email provided there to indicate that the donation is for BiZoHa and whether there is any particular need you want your donation to go toward.  [Note that due to summer vacations, tax receipts will be processed after August 18 and email responses will be delayed.]

We look forward to hearing from you. With science, we can progress!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

DW Story On Daily Threats to Bangladeshi Blogger

Still from video shows friend advising Azad to leave Bangladesh after death threat. (source)
Today, on Canada Day, I get to reflect on how lucky I am to live in a country where it's (still) possible to safely blog about atheism, the dangers of religion and state-church separation issues. This is patently not the case in Bangladesh, where atheist bloggers like me are being hacked to death with machetes in the streets.

Here's an excellent and disturbing look by DW television at the life of one such atheist blogger in Bangladesh, Ananya Azad. He's on an Islamic terrorist hit list with other bloggers and gets frequent death threats. So far, he has not found any way out of the country to safety abroad. With all of this, he continues to blog.

Cannot embed the video. So here's the link:

Monday, 15 June 2015

Quebec Liberals Table New Government Neutrality Bill

Please know the difference. (source)
Remember the Quebec Charter of Values (aka Quebec Secular Charter)? According to the rest of Canada, the crushing defeat of the Parti Quebecois in the last election was a clear signal against the Charter -- or whatever. They wish!

This is, of course, what they would like to believe and it is not rooted in reality. The Charter was probably the only policy the party had that had broad support in the province (well, among Francophones, at least). The PQ lost when they uttered the word separation. That killed them.

I always felt uneasy with that old attempt at government neutrality because it seemed to focus so extremely on wardrobe and so little on things which I thought better belong in a secular charter; like tax breaks for clergy, churches, religious institutions. Private religious schools would no longer get government subsidies. Crucifixes and other symbols would be removed from city halls and national assemblies. Orthodox religious cults would no longer be allowed to run their own illegitimate schools and deprive children of secular educations by starving out real world subjects with endless recitation of ancient texts.

Well, the Quebec Liberals understand that this charter was about the only thing the PQ had going for them. So they begrudgingly promised to make their own neutrality bill.
Quebec is again taking steps aimed at barring public servants from wearing face-covering religious garments at work, and preventing members of the public from covering their faces while receiving government services.
You can tell I picked an Anglophone news site, which might as well have come from the rest of Canada, because of the negative light they put this essentially reasonable legislation in. There's no happy mention of the benefits of a neutral state here -- oh no! -- the CBC is totally down with my being unable to even see the eyes of whoever is working at the motor licensing bureau.

What a terrible law! No, wait, it's just requiring that people show their faces when serving or getting served at a government office or within a government paid service -- with some educational institution exceptions. Well, it's not as far as I would like it to go (see above), but I'm okay with this.

First off, we must realize the vast amount of confusion within the (mostly liberal) western world when it comes to Muslim women's attire. Please consult the above chart where you'll find that the hijab and chador would be perfectly fine, while the burqa and niqab, not so much. Also take a look at this post where we discover many people on social media defending women's rights to wear niqabs by wearing hijabs.

Also, only the most extreme Islamic countries require anything more than a simple hijab.

Now go read the bill. Meanwhile, here are the Explanatory Notes:
The purpose of this bill is to establish measures to foster
adherence to State religious neutrality. For that purpose, it provides,
in particular, that personnel members of public bodies must
demonstrate religious neutrality in the exercise of their functions,
being careful to neither favour nor hinder a person because of the
person’s religious affiliation or non-affiliation. However, this duty
does not apply to personnel members who, in certain bodies, provide
spiritual care and guidance services or are in charge of providing
instruction of a religious nature.

Under the bill, personnel members of public bodies and of certain
other bodies must exercise their functions with their face uncovered,
unless they have to cover their face, in particular because of their
working conditions or because of occupational or task-related
requirements. In addition, persons receiving services from such
personnel members must have their face uncovered. An accommodation
is possible but must be refused if the refusal is warranted in the context
for security or identification reasons or because of the level of
communication required.

The bill establishes the conditions under which accommodations
on religious grounds may be granted as well as the specific elements
that must be considered when dealing with certain accommodation

It specifies that the measures it introduces must not be interpreted
as affecting the emblematic and toponymic elements of Québec’s
cultural heritage, in particular its religious cultural heritage, that
testify to its history.

Lastly, special measures with respect to educational childcare
services are introduced to ensure that, among other considerations,
children’s admission is not related to their learning a specific religious
belief, dogma or practice and that the activities organized by
subsidized childcare providers do not involve learning of a religious
or dogmatic nature.

Some of the opt out and special accommodation exemptions in the bill strike me as highly vague -- kind of like the Liberal party's platforms.

Still, not exactly cutting the tax exemptions or shutting the private schools out of public funding -- especially if they do not teach the province's comparative religion course -- but it's baby steps. I can live with it.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Poll: Canadians Would Prefer Politicians to Skip the Praying & Do Their Jobs!

From Angus Reid poll Prayer in Canadian Public Life: a Nation Divided. (source)
A recent poll done by Angus Reid (on registered members only) rather clearly demonstrates that Canadians would rather have their politicians do their jobs than squabble over whether or not Jesus is addressed before each meeting.
The latest public opinion poll from the Angus Reid Institute finds that fewer than half (41%) of respondents support the idea of a Christian prayer referring to Jesus Christ at the beginning of a council meeting, compared to nearly twice as many (75%) who say the meeting should just start without any formal ceremony or pause.
The results are pretty much as expected, yet still refreshing.

Geographically speaking, the secular hubs of Canada, British Columbia (65%) and Quebec (63%) agree the most with the Supreme Court Saguenay prayer ruling, while Bible beating Saskatchewan (47%) and Atlantic Canada (43%) are the least -- still, those are still pretty close to 50%.

Demographically speaking, the younger generations are much less worked up about ditching the supernatural invocations at government meetings.

From Angus Reid poll Prayer in Canadian Public Life: a Nation Divided. (source)
Not many people really seem to care about God being in the National Anthem -- which is a pity. Apparently, more people were interested in seeing the anthem made gender neutral. I can get behind that.

On the whole, excellent news which seems to demonstrate that Canadians really do not give much of a hoot about praying in the public sphere. They just want politicians to get to work. I think this could be a stark contrast with how things are in the US.

I wonder if certain politicians who've make a public stink out of this will perhaps tone down their fervent defense of religious ritual -- victim theatre -- before sessions when they've read the results of this poll?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Peterborough City Council Poised to Permanently Drop Recital of Lord's Prayer

Canadian Atheist blogger Veronica Abbass filed a suit against reciting the Lord's Prayer in Peterborough City Hall in 2012.
Photo credit: Sarah Frank at (source)
Shortly after the landmark Supreme Court ruling banning prayer in Saguenay city council meetings in mid April, the city of Peterborough put their own council meeting prayers on ice to re-evaluate the question of state sponsored invocation of deities. In fact, they were praying the Lord's Prayer which had been ruled against fifteen years ago by a provincial court.

For at least three years, Veronica Abbass, who blogs at Canadian Atheist, has been trying to get the city to comply with the law and drop the Lord's Prayer. Well, it looks like the city has finally complied.

A proposed change to the city's Municipal Act aims to replace the reciting of the Lord's Prayer with this invocation:
The Council for the City of Peterborough recognizes the principles contained in our Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that enshrine rights and freedoms for all. We also acknowledge that our Constitution provides that Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law.
That last line is factually correct, but is obviously some piece of red meat or token offering to those who just cannot deal with dropping any God mentions at all. Even with that, it's an improvement over an obvious prayer and Abbass is not concerned.
Ms Abbass says she’s not concerned over the new wording for the opening of municipal meetings, she just wanted to ensure the City didn’t continue to go against a court ruling prohibiting the practice.
Remember, her case was about the Lord's Prayer.

The council endorsed the removal of the prayer on Monday, but it still awaits final approval at an upcoming council session. However, the city has already signed off on her case, which ought to bring the matter to a close.

Congratulations to Veronica!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Atheist Former Councilor Taking Legal Action Against Cape Breton City Council For Continued Prayer

Just last week, Pagans protested a moment of silent prayer, invocation and reflection at the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) which was meant to replace an obviously Christian spoken prayer in the wake of the Supreme Court decision April 15th to remove prayer at city council meetings in Saguenay, Quebec.

The meetings happen monthly, and the Pagans were protesting the city doing a fairly half-assed job following the spirit of the Saguenay ruling the month before.

You see, technically, there was no prayer said out loud during the April 21st meeting, but:
At the April 21 council meeting, Mayor Cecil Clarke hosted a vocal prayer outside the chamber and had the prayer printed in the agenda in defiance of a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that banned a Quebec municipality from holding prayers at council meetings.
He didn't stop there, he also inserted God Save the Queen and Oh Canada into the program -- because they mention God.
He also had the singing of O Canada and God Save The Queen added to the agenda in order to work the word God into the session.
How wonderfully inclusive!
After the April meeting, several councillors objected to the mayor’s inclusion of prayer in contravention of the ruling, saying a moment of silent reflection would be more appropriate.

However, the text of the prayer was printed in the May 19 agenda, and the third item listed on the agenda is “Moment of silent prayer, invocation and reflection.”
If you would like to get a general idea about just how the council members feel about this -- which clearly demonstrates why they'll do anything to not follow the ruling in good faith -- just watch the conversations they had (41:33) about prayer in city meetings on that day.

My favourite part:
There are scientists now who are believing that there is something outside of science besides themselves. There are scientists who believe there is something bigger than science going on and there are books written about that.
Say what?

Here's the rub. They did all this after receiving confidential legal council advising them to stick with a moment of silence and mention nothing at all about prayer, a 'moment of prayer' or whatever! They were clearly warned that there could be a lawsuit and real damages -- for taxpayers, of course.

We know this because a legal memo from their counsel was recently leaked(!) -- first to resident Madeline Yakimchuk who opposes state endorsed prayer and posted the legal memo to her Facebook.
Yakimchuk said the top court ruling was “very clear” that religion has no place in municipal meetings, and the legal advice from municipal solicitor Demetri Kachafanas, provided days before the council meeting, clearly warned council about its duty to be neutral.

“This neutrality requires that the state neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief,” Kachafanas wrote. “It requires that the state abstain from taking any position and thus avoid adhering to a particular belief.

“Being neutral is not simply not favouring one religion over another, it would extend to a duty not to favour religion over non-religion and the rights of non-believers. A prayer is in and of itself a religious act.

“Simply defying the ruling and continuing the prayer may expose the municipality to a legal challenge and quite likely damages.”
Well, all of this has lead atheist and former city councilor, Garry Smith (of previously separate Glace Bay) to inform the city that he is calling in the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to investigate prayer in city council meetings.
Any kind of prayer at a public council meeting that assumes belief in any type of god — regardless of how inclusive it is intended to be — excludes his beliefs, Smith said.

“Once you put a prayer on a piece of paper, that piece of paper becomes a religious icon,” said Smith.
Smith is okay with a moment of silence, as am I, but that's not what it says on the program.

In addition to being a former municipal councilor, Smith is also a retired RCMP and corrections officer.
“To me, it smacks of religious arrogance on behalf of the mayor. ‘This is what I believe and you’re all entitled to hear and listen to my belief,’ and I’m not. I don’t want to listen to his belief.

“I don’t want to hear it from the state, of all places. If I wanted to hear a prayer, I’d go to a church downtown, or some place where I wanted to hear a prayer. When I go to municipal meetings, or any state function, I don’t expect to hear, ‘God, forgive me for what I’m about to do,’ all that sort of stuff.”
Right now, municipalities across the country are sort of hair-splitting any way they can to avoid following the spirit of the Saguenay ruling. A common refrain is that the Supreme Court ruled narrowly on just this Quebec town -- although it was a strong unanimous decision. If this legal route is pursued all the way up to the highest court, it has the potential -- in several years -- to trigger a more general ruling against state-endorsed prayer in municipal meetings that would shut this sort of silliness down for good.

So it might be wise for the CBRM to just have their moment of silence; legally prudent.

via Veronica Abbass

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